September is a Sometimes Season

I am fortunate in being able to make my own schedule most days. But sometimes those maintenance tasks that my friend Pen calls ‘life laundry’ cannot be parcelled out to one’s own bidding. That is when keeping up a writing practice becomes a time management challenge. Back in the last century, when still living in England, it often happened during lunch break while eating a sandwich on a park bench, or at my work station tapping out a draft when colleagues were out. You learn to use deal with time sandwich style.

So it is today, sandwiching poetry practice in between life laundry tasks and culinary activity.

September is a Sometimes Season

When sun peals like wedding church bells
and clouds are scarce,
a young man speeds along the highway
with a pretty girl by his side.
The soft top is down.
The wind teases her tendrils from her topknot.
They flail wildly
bedhead passion fashion.

The sky winks and a grey cloud lumbers along,
all middle-aged, a wrinkle and a frown, pre-occupied about
what to do to use up all those bruised apples.
By turns the weather is warm and sultry, then
the wind shivers your sweat.
In the evening you debate if it is worth switching the heating on,
just for an hour or so,
or maybe just to turn the electric blanket on low.

September is a sometimes season.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Equinox Eve

Poetry practice was delayed until evening today. But I have kept up with a poem a day now for a week. Wouldn’t Miss Mildred be impressed if I had been as diligent with my piano etudes as I have been with pounding out words.

The sunset last night was inspiration for today’s offering. Yesterday was very rich in countless ways. Wholly, a gift. The Haiku PoeTree Walk on the Cavan Burren had a relaxed group. A frog hopped out at us at the Calf Hut Dolmen, which felt like I little benediction from the haiku master Basho. (Who was a cat man if his haiku on Love and Barley is to be believed. Given that that this week a certain cat has often hovered close by during poetry practice. I suspect he is auditioning for the position as muse.)

But it isn’t haiku, but a kind of elation that came upon me as I walked our little dog Obe back home down our lane.

At 7pm on Equinox Eve

I want to go out like September
in the bonfire blaze before sunset
such that all will remember
its juice and its shine and jewelled light.

I want to go out and bathe in its truly blue sky,
all crisp and cool, with wisps of cottonwool cloud
writing omens that scud by.

I want to go out like this September night
with its equal light and shade
where nothing at all is vague
in its angle of light.

I want to go out like September
that wears it heart on its shirtsleeve
when it comes time to take my leave.

For a life to sink gloriously down
just as this September sun shows me how.
I want go out as elated
as this evening’s last light.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

“The End”

It would be difficult not to contemplate endings at this time of year. And yet, it was at autumn equinox seventeen years ago on a Saturday that I began my life in Ireland. Cycles of birth, growth, death, and renewal define life and living. There is a time for everything Ecclesiastes would remind us. The truth is that season’s turn, just as the tides do. Everyone has their time of endings before there can renewal.

Equinoxes, like the solstices, are liminal times in the wheel of the year. Equinoxes are, to me at least, moments where we stand right on the threshold. It is the half and half point between light and darkness. We have not committed to going out or staying in. Nothing is quite at an end. But then neither can anything quite begin.

So, to the daily poetry practice. These were my scales played this morning.

“The End”

comes right after
the “happily ever after.”
(Now, take a bow!)
The proscenium curtain
creaks and sweeps down.
Only the stage’s work lamp
is left on.

The blank stage
inanimate, set broken down,
the show rolled up.
The blank page,
the before to the afterwards,
with only the work lamp
left on.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Poetry, PoeTree & Culture Night

A busy couple of days without the leisure to polish a lengthy poem for poetry practice. Tonight is Ireland’s Culture Night and up and down the country there will be events celebrating every kind of art form. Tonight I will perform some poems at Dowra Courthouse Creative Space, a repurposed redundant rural courthouse that is now an exhibition, performance and meeting space. It kicks off at 4:30pm with a pottery class by local ceramics teacher Jim Fee. (The courthouse even has a kiln to finish off the production!). From 7:30pm there will be a procession of performers starting with estimable Mike Absolem and his harp. My husband, Tony Cuckson and I share a storytelling and poetry slot at 8pm. Musicians and singer/songwriters will entertain until 10:30pm.

From poetry to PoeTree on Saturday with another of my outdoor writing workshops. This one is free courtesy of funding from Create Ireland and Cavan County Council. The walk and workshop will concentrate on haiku as both poetry form and a mindfulness practice. Cavan Burren Park, Blacklion is my favourite venue and never fails to offer fresh inspiration on every visit. Meet me at the Visitor Centre at 2pm for a stroll with a pen and notebook. Be prepared for some stop and stare time. If you want more information ring me on ++353-71-964-3936.

So writing practice for today demands exercising the haiku muscle. Also, it is brief. So it. An ideal form for the time famished writer. Okay, breathe in. Breathe out…and

It can be done in seventeen syllables. Or less. It can be less.

The storm stripped the willows

The gaps between trees

Lets new light in

Squirrel

Post Storm Ali we have assessed the garden damage. The sunflowers were badly battered and those beds cleared for spring bulb planting. Which is not just a clean up job, but putting in fresh compost and manure into the raised beds  There are planted that need to be redeployed into other parts of the garden, or divided, and potted on to be shared. There are herbs to be harvested and dried. Seed heads get gently shaken into paper bags for next spring.

We lost three trees in the storm, which made my husband particularly mournful this morning. But there will be more planted. This acre is a wildlife haven in wildish West Cavan. Where, it seems, at least to my husband, that even the hills were moved by Storm Ali. He is sure our neighbour’s hill looks taller and closer today. But these things can happen when you live in a mythic landscape.

One bit of wildlife in this part of the world is the red squirrel. Ten years or so ago it was highly endangered being out-competed by the American Grey Squirrel. It’s range had retreated to west of the River Shannon, which is where our acre is situated. It likes a combination of conifer and deciduous trees, which we have in abundance. It has made a comeback and I feel it is a totem for this region.

 
Squirrel

The acorns are not yet ripe.

I checked the hedgerows yesterday.

Though mushrooms are in full forest bloom.

The peas and beans have long since had their best pickings.

Apples stored, seeds dried, tisanes made,

herbs for the pot and to scent the sock drawer packed away.

The hunter and gatherer

we call forager these days

is still strong in the DNA.

Just like the red squirrel who visits us,

who prays over his peanut lunchbox,

we stow away the leavings

at this season’s ending,

future seed

to begin anew.
Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

When the Wind Blows

I am writing this as Storm Ali’s wind is blowing across our little acre in West Cavan. Living out in rural districts makes you pretty sanguine about extreme weather, but I will admit it is a bit bowel loosening (in a Stephen King kind of way) as you sit on the loo to hear tree limbs scrape across the flat roof of the bathroom extension.

When the Wind Blows

But you sleep through most of the storm
snug in your strange dreams of fictional spinsters
named Miss Milner
who presents you with a shoebox of incomplete accounts
that you heroically have to get
into chronological order.

But timelines are skewed.
They also overlap.
You can taste the “Eat Me!” Cake
that makes your head scrape the ceiling
until you want to donate it
to the Red Queen’s chopping block.

When awake
the storm still stews in its teacup.
The cats do not want to go outside.
Even The Wild One purrs by my side
as I draft this account.
The urge to huddle is strong.
Even among Cool Cats who would like to consider themselves
Street Fighting Men.

The willow’s trunk-
the one by the prayer cairn
in the Fairy Garden-
has split in two.
The sunflowers –
The ones called American Giant –
are lying face down.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Equinox or Equilux?

I am not sure why the vernal and autumnal points of equal light and night have, seeming by default, come to be known as equinoxes. They could just as easily be called equilux, equal light. Today’s poetry practice is inspired by one of my favourite times of year. It is especially dear to me because we moved to Ireland in September. Seventeen years ago at Equinox/Equilux I arrived in what has become my place of belonging after a previously very nomadic life. I realised recently that this is the longest I have ever lived in any place in my lifetime.

Equinox/Equilux

There are storms spinning out in the Atlantic.
The sunflowers’ petals shatter in the rock and sway,
their heads splayed. But the bees still come
and feed on summer’s last supper
despite low cloud, a dense afternoon gloom
needing electrification.
My husband has tucked the garden up.
I bring the winter clothes down.
The earth is getting ready to say,
“Good night!”

There are showers and rumours of rainbow.
Rosehips, haws and rowanberries
Smack their lipsticked lips in the wind,
which alternates hot and cold in September custom.
Sloes wait their turn for frost to
add their snap to jars of gin.
Sometimes the angle of light when I look up
into the sky could bring me to my knees, down
onto the earth getting ready to say,
“Oh, sweet light!”

Copyright Bee Smith 2018